For Kanye West’s sixth album, Yeezy wasted no opportunity to push the promotional envelope. From his global projections (literally, on walls) of singles “Black Skinhead” and “New Slaves” to his debut of both songs on Saturday Night Live, Kanye’s methods of releasing new material is a large part of the myth behind Mr. West. But when it’s all said and done, does the album live up to the hype? Many fans of My Dark Twisted Fantasy, West’s fifth album, thought so, but by constantly pushing the envelope with song titles like “Black Skinhead,” “New Slaves” and “I Am a God,” could Kanye be pushing the envelope too far?
Yeezus opens with a powerful opening song in “On Sight,” a futuristic-sounding track with lasers, synthesizers and a very nonchalant flow from West. However, underneath that nonchalance is controversy. With lines like “Have this bi*** shakin’ like Parkinsons,” Kanye wastes no time pushing the listener’s idea of appropriate rap lyrics to another level, and continues to do so throughout the album. With continuing futuristic production and controversial lyrics, the album follows this pattern. Through “Black Skinheads,” “I Am A God” and “New Slaves,” braggadocious lines and compelling production propel the listener through a roller coaster of primal emotions. The first half of the album really makes you feel like one of the barking dogs that appears in the “Black Skinheads” music video. However, at “Hold My Liquor,” the album takes a very interesting turn.
“Hold My Liquor,” featuring fellow Chicago native Chief Keef and Justin Vernon, AKA Bon Iver, has Kanye reflecting on how he has changed as a person and artist. With Keef whining the chorus “I can’t handle my liquor…but this n***** can’t handle me,” Kanye launches into personal thoughts about others’ perceptions of himself. The production is also toned down in comparison to the first songs on the album, going from the fierce primal beats of the first four songs and transitioning into a much more melodic, yet still futuristic sounding piece. From here the album changes into a sound that Kanye fans recognize. Kanye’s boastful lines are still ever present, but his subject matter turns inward, towards reflection, and the beats slow down and rely much more on a sample-based backbone.
Songs such as “Blood on the Leaves,” “Guilt Trip” and “Bound 2” contain samples from a multitude of places that aid the song both in its message and in its sonic appeal. Other than “Send It Up,” a song featuring King L and reminiscent of Kanye’s “Power” or “Stronger,” Yeezus continues in this way until the concluding song, and the one most reminiscent of Kanye’s past, “Bound 2.” With a heavily sampled beat, Kanye portrays a discussion between a woman and himself and his thoughts on women and life in general. With this conclusion Kanye reminds listeners that he’s still the same ‘Ye; careless and a little egotistical but still clever and sentimental.
Overall, I would recommend Yeezus. It seems Kanye West reverse-psychologied me into liking the album. The hype was so big that expectations were low, as with most over-hyped albums. However, while it is definitely not a new classic, Yeezus does not disappoint. It is something rap fans should definitely listen to, if not keep in their music arsenal for those unexpected, yet absolutely necessary, Yeezy moments.